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Desk and bookcase


Object number

RIF5328

Maker

Maker Unknown

Dimensions

226.7 x 99.7 x 57.15 cm (89 1/4 x 39 1/4 x 22 1/2 in.)

Date

1800–1810

Current location

Unknown

Geography

Probably made in Providence, Rhode Island
(view a map of Rhode Island)

Medium

Mahogany (primary); mahogany (mechanism for reading slant); pine (linings and glue blocks of large exterior drawers and small interior drawers, top and bottom of bookcase, backing for drawer dividers, reading slant, bookcase back frame, glue blocks on feet, backboard for desk, drawer stops, glue blocks on drawer bottoms, sides and backs of small exterior drawers); chestnut (panels of bookcase back and bottoms of small exterior drawers); ivory (pulls and finials)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

"1" through "6," in graphite, on undersides of interior drawer bottoms and on corresponding drawer dividers; "4," in graphite, on side of exterior front corner of drawer 4; "6 / [an arc]," in graphite, on exterior back of interior drawer 6; "N 1," in graphite, on underside of proper-right exterior small drawer; "No [ o superscript] 25," in graphite, on exterior of desk backboard and underside of bookcase bottom board; "82," in ink, on underside of desk bottom board; "2," in graphite, on top of one drawer divider for the exterior drawers;illegible text, in ink, on piece of paper sealing a crack on underside of interior drawer 6; mathematical calculations, in chalk, on underside of bookcase bottom and on exterior bookcase back

Style

Federal, Sheraton

Provenance

Dwight Blaney (1865–1944), Boston, Massachuestts; by descent to his daughter, Elizabeth Blaney Cram, Marblehead, Massachuestts. Christie's, New York, June 23, 1993, lot 167; sold to Norman Hascoe (died 2007) and Suzanne Hascoe (died 2010), Greenwich, Connecticut; consigned by their estate to Sotheby's, New York, January 23, 2011, lot 240

Associated names

Dwight Blaney
Elizabeth Blaney Cram
Suzanne Hascoe
Norman Hascoe
Sotheby's

Construction

The incurvate sections of the side portions of the pediment are attached to the cornice molding below by rosehead nails. The front portions are attached by both rosehead nails and rectangular horizontal glue blocks, one PL, two PR. The central plinth block has a single chamfered horizontal glue block and bears shadows of two missing vertical glue blocks. The front plinths are fitted with turned ivory urn-shaped finials, each surmounted by a carved wood sphere and attached to the plinth by a wood screw below. The single-board bookcase top is dovetailed to the case sides. The bookcase back is comprised of stiles, rails and panels. The upper and lower horizontal rails are screwed directly to the top and bottom of the bookcase section. The flanking stiles are screwed and rabbeted to the case sides. The medial stile is tenoned into the rails above and below, and the two panels, chamfered on all four sides, into grooves in their adjoining members. The single-board bookcase sides have twelve full depth rectangular routs, fitted with two full-depth shelves with solid cock-beaded fronts attached by brads. The two doors contain two glazed gothic arches each, flanked by reeded colonettes having molded columns and bases on high ressaulted plinths with veneered panels between. Three small drawers below have crossbanded veneered and cock-beaded fronts and turned ivory pulls. The rails and stiles joints are not visible. The door muntins are putty glazed within, and the inside of the door rails bear multiple nail holes, probably from curtains to protect the books from light. The bookcase sits within a three-sided molded frame on the single-board desk top. The desk back consists of two horizontal boards rabbeted to the case sides and top and nailed with rosehead nails. There is a separate back skirt board, slightly inset from the larger back boards above, aligning with and single-tenoned into the rectangular blocks above the turned rear legs. The desk case bottom is a single board joined to the front and sides with multiple rectangular and chamfered glue blocks. The desk top pulls out horizontally above the case drawers and has a hinged, baize-lined writing surface, with battens screwed to its underside, hinged at the ends, joined by a medial brace and supported at a metal foot in a rabbet at the edge of the opening in the desk top. The interior is concealed behind a veneered lid, quarter round in section, which is pulled up into the top of the desk section by means of two turned ivory knobs. When open, the interior displays two banks of small drawers centering five valanced document cubbies and an empty space below. The drawers are progressively shallower from bottom to top, owing to the presence at the back of the desk of a pocket for the sliding lid. The document cubby ceilings are similarly reduced in height to accommodate the top. The small drawers are finely made, having narrow, thin-necked dovetails with half-pins above and below. The drawer side and drawer back tops are square and flush with the drawer fronts. The bottoms are parallel to the front, chamfered at the front and sides, set into grooves in the drawer front and sides, and nailed to the drawer bottoms with rosehead nails. The interior drawer dividers are full depth and have solid mahogany fronts with rounded faces. The case contains drawer supports set into grooves in the case sides and attached with cut nails, drawer stops glued to the case sides shy of the case back, and upper drawer guides nailed to the case sides. The drawer dividers, similarly set into grooves, are covered with horizontally grained mahogany. The large drawers have two-board bottoms parallel to the fronts, chamfered at the front and sides, set into grooves at the front and sides and nailed to the drawer back with cut nails. Glue blocks reinforce the side joints. The turned and reeded legs are double tenoned into the bottom rail. Examined by P. E. Kane, J. S. Gordon and E. Orr, January 20, 2011; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.

Bibliography

Elizabeth Stillinger, "Dwight Blaney: Portrait of a Collector," Antiques 118, no. 4 (October 1980): 750–751, 756, pl. 8, fig. 2.
Elizabeth Stillinger, The Antiquers: The Lives and Careers, the Deals, the Funds, the Collections of the Men and Women Who Were Responsible for the Changing Taste in American Antiques (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980), 111, ill.
Christie's, New York, Important American Furniture, Silver, Folk Art, and Decorative Arts, sale cat. (June 23, 1993), lot 167, ill.
Sotheby's, New York, Property from the Hascoe Family Collection: Important American and English Furniture, Fine & Decorative Art, sale cat. (January 23, 2011), 130–131, lot 240, ill.